Collaborative clinical research continues at Loma
Linda University Medical Center through participation in cooperative groups and
in collaboration with other proton therapy investigators in the Proton Radiation
Oncology Group. Loma Linda University Medical Center investigators are working on
several protocols, including those for lung, breast, esophagus, liver, and bladder
In the short-term, a new robotic machine (shown on the left) will be deployed
in Gantry 1 at LLUMC with a “pod” that is permanently attached to the robotic arm. The arm can
be moved in any direction three-dimensionally. Individual patients only need
to have an “insert” put into the pod to be comfortable.
This new robotic system will deliver Proton therapy more accurately than ever before,
along with new imaging techniques. The photo on the right shows what a patient being
treated with the new robotic system looks like. Delivery can be achieved at literally any angle
for precise treatment. It may also be possible to begin treating breast cancers with
this new system. Dr. Jerry Slater speaks of future developments in the accuracy of delivery
that may even achieve the treatment of specific areas of the prostate rather than having
to treat the entire prostate. This, of course, has the potential to be even less risky,
in terms of side effects, than current proton treatments—which already have a
very low rate of side effects.
At the Loma Linda University Research Institute, the benefits of protons are being
extended beyond the local tumor site. By combining proton treatment with other treatment
modalities, including monoclonal antibodies,
a biologic modifier, cytokines
and radiation enhancers, the advantages of protons may be expanded to benefit patients
with more advanced diseases. Investigations into the potential of protons for treating
patients with non-tumorous diseases characterized by abnormal functioning cells
are also being carried out.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Loma Linda
University Medical Center’s Proton Treatment Center formed a research
partnership in which the proton facility will enhance radiation research in space. This
important work will also allow NASA researchers to understand how radiation affects
personnel and scientific equipment traveling through deep space.
The five-year agreement for the Loma Linda University/NASA Radiation Research
Laboratory focuses on the use of the proton facility to simulate the proton environments
of space, including solar flares and the Van Allen radiation belts.
Learning how to protect
astronauts from such hazards is critical, particularly in missions that would take
astronauts back to the moon or the planet Mars.